Rehman Malik Escapes Disqualification
By Irfan Ghauri for The Express Tribune
In a move that raises a number of questions, and possibly a number of ramifications, election authorities announced on Tuesday that they have decided not to disqualify Interior Minister Rehman Malik.
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) said that it had endorsed the stand of Senate authorities that no question of disqualification had arisen in the case of Senator Malik – who was under scrutiny for submitting false statements to the Supreme Court in the dual nationality case.
The deputy chair of the Senate, Sabir Baloch, who is currently the acting chairman, rejected two separate references against Senator Malik that sought his disqualification.
Earlier, on September 20, the Supreme Court had taken note of a conflict between Senator Malik’s statements and the evidence provided by him in a
case probing dual national parliamentarians. Eleven federal and provincial lawmakers found to have dual nationality were held to be disqualified by the Supreme Court, given that Pakistani citizens holding foreign nationalities are not eligible to be parliamentarians, according the Constitution of Pakistan.
However, Senator Malik’s case was unique, and the court did not issue a direct verdict on his matter, and only raised the question of disqualification.
During the course of the case, Senator Malik had told the court that he had renounced his British citizenship before being elected to the Senate in 2008. However, when his documents were scrutinized, a blatant conflict emerged: The evidence suggested that his renunciation had taken place on May 29, 2012 – that is, when the court had taken notice of the matter.
As the matter was being heard in court, and his status as Senator was suspended, Malik resigned from the Senate on July 11, 2012 – and was then reelected within two weeks. Ostensibly, this would have given the interior minister cover – given that he had actually renounced his citizenship before resigning and being reelected. But the issue of perjury (lying under oath) came to the fore.
“Mr. A. Rahman Malik, in view of the false declaration filed by him at the time of contesting the election to the Senate held in the year 2008, wherein he was elected, cannot be considered sagacious, righteous, honest and ameen within the contemplation of section 99(1)(f) of the Act of 1976. Therefore, for such purposes Article 63(p) is to be adhered to because the disqualification incurred by him is envisaged under the law, referred to hereinabove in view of his own statement that he had renounced his citizenship of UK whereas the fact remains that such renunciation along with declaration can only be seen as having been made on 29.05.2012,” reads a portion of the court order regarding Senator Malik.
Two references had been pending with the Senate chairman regarding Senator Malik’s disqualification: One by a citizen Asif Ezdi, and another similar one by lawyer Maulvi Iqbal Haider, who had relied on the observations of the Supreme Court.
But the two were dismissed.
“Reference Supreme Court short order dated 20-09-2012, detailed judgment dated 16-10-2011, reference of Mr. Asif Azdi dated 26-08-2012 and reference of Malik Iqbal Haider dated 22-09-2012 I have held that no question of disqualification has arisen in respect of senator A. Rehman Malik. Resultantly the Election Commission of Pakistan is being informed accordingly,” wrote Sabir Baloch in his letter to the ECP.
Notably, the ECP did not issue any formal statement on the matter on Tuesday. Instead, it was verbally conveyed by officials of the commission to the media. They said the reference regarding Malik is disposed of and no further action can be taken against the minister.
Under the process, the Senate chairman has 30 days to decide on the matter and forward it to the ECP. The ECP has 60 days to take action on the matter. If no decision comes on the part of the Senate chairman in the stipulated 30 days, the case is deemed to have automatically been forwarded to the ECP.
Following the September 20 court orders, the Senate chairman had until October 20th to forward the matter to the ECP.
Interestingly, the letter by the Senate’s (acting) chairman to ECP was disclosed on Tuesday (October 23). In fact, Chief Election Commissioner Justice (retd) Fakhruddin G Ebrahim had himself told the media on Monday that the ECP was yet to receive a letter from the Senate regarding Senator Malik’s case. Though the date mentioned in the letter disclosed on Tuesday is “October 20th” sources said it was actually received by the ECP on October 22nd.
The ECP’s meeting regarding this matter was scheduled for Monday, but was postponed due to a meeting between the chief election commissioner and Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.
While the decision seems to have brought the interior minister some respite, the move could yet be challenged in court.
Earlier this year, the National Assembly Speaker Fehmida had held that no question of disqualification had arisen in the case of the then prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, and did not forward the matter to the ECP. Later, her decision was challenged, and the apex court ultimately overruled her. Gilani was disqualified from premiership as well as his National Assembly seat.
Dr Asim resigns
Senator Dr Asim Hussain, who holds the portfolio of advisor to the prime minister on petroleum, resigned from his Senate seat on Tuesday. He was part of the next batch of parliamentarians faced with court proceedings on their nationality status.
However, he will continue in his capacity as ‘advisor,’ which does not require him to be a member of Parliament.